Tag Archives: XBox 360

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

51g6GKymFKLAt long last, I’ve played another Assassin’s Creed game. I must be at least four behind now? And at some point they get terrible, though I do not know what point that is. Anyway, Revelations (the last of the Ezio Auditore trilogy) was still a good game, so that’s nice.

Well. I mean, it was a good game. That part is true. All kinds of new toys to play with, the same climbing and running and jumping and assassinating fun from the previous two games, plus a satisfactory ending to Ezio’s story and both a nod to how terrible AC1 was plus a satisfactory ending to Altaïr’s story to make up for it. Gameplay, 16th century storyline and 12th century storyline, all of these were firing on all cylinders. Best Assassin’s Creed game yet.

Except… so, the ending of Brotherhood pretty much blew me away. It was a huge out of nowhere plot twist for Desmond’s story (he’s the guy in modern times that is reliving the genetic memories of his ancestors) that was simultaneously a huge cliffhanger. And for that part of the story… I mean, just nothing. Everyone seemed to treat it as no big deal and not worth mentioning, and I’m left clawing for answers that I suppose will never be forthcoming.

So that’s lame, and inevitably colors the whole experience. Alas.

Bioshock Infinite

I have been having a very hard time reacting to Bioshock Infinite. As a story, it was beautiful and compelling and I spent every moment from beginning to end wanting to know more. As a game, it was, well, rather a lot like Bioshock, with a few interesting differences. And a few unfortunate ones, it must be noted. The inability to have a save game and instead only be allowed to wait for when the game decides to save for you is… mostly not so bad, but when it was bad (I’d like to go to sleep now, not in 15 minutes; I’d like to be able to restore and do this fight a different way), it was pretty terrible. Still, as flaws go, they had a good reason for it and it was nowhere near a showstopper.

Unfortunately, I got about two lines into the next paragraph before I realized that I have to play this one too close to the vest to be worth a whole lot. But I can give you the premise in broad strokes, I suppose: Booker Dewitt, down and out private detective, has been sent to Columbia, a city in the sky, with one haunting directive: “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt.” Well, okay, there are one or two more directives, but they wouldn’t mean anything much to you until you were playing anyway. I would quickly add that he discovers nothing is as it seems, but let’s be honest, he just magically appeared in a floating city in the clouds in 1912, I think you probably already knew that part. I think he probably already knew that part already! Okay, the rest is behind the cut. Continue reading

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

The last thing I did lately was run through the most recent entry in the Modern Warfare trilogy. (You can see from the awkward construction of the previous sentence that I have no idea if it really was a trilogy or if I should expect more to come.) They have a clever thing in the opening credits where it starts as WW3 and then the first W flips to become an M (and their acronym). Because, you see, it picks up immediately after (or, really, probably a few moments before) the end of the second game, in which World War 3 has well and truly blossomed.

The other thing about Modern Warfare 3 is that it took me several minutes to recall just now exactly how it ended, and if said ending would actually count as a completed story sequence. The answer is yes, but my inability to immediately remember what happened a mere eight days after I finished the game tells the rest of the story of this review for me. It was a perfectly adequate game, identical in play to the previous volumes, but without quite the punch and edge-of-my-seatness the others had. Maybe it’s because I’m overly jaded. It was cool and shocking the first time a viewpoint character in the game died, but after three such games, they had taught me not to get attached to anyone, and it turns out that this may be a problem in a first-person game, the inability to be attached to your own damn eyes and ears.

But still, from a purely narrative point of view, yes, I am satisfied by the complete story told in these games. Not, ultimately, as satisfied as I was with the Halo series, but pretty satisfied indeed. Will I later play the Black Ops games as well? Just maybe! It’s nice to have a game I can start and finish over the course of one or two weekends.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

A very long time ago, I played a game and thought it was basically fine, compelling even, but not particularly worth following up on the sequels. I cannot tell you a good reason why I would have thought that, beyond the part where I don’t really play all that many games. But considering this was a game I was highly impressed by and able to play through in just a handful of days, you’d think the next one would have gone on the short list. My best guess is I’m used to the rest of the series’ WWII roots meaning I’d be playing the same game over and over with slight variations. Certainly, the thought of a true sequel never crossed my mind.

But then I got the third entry for Christmas in 2011, and when I popped it in to take a look, I quickly realized that, nope, this has some of the same characters and really is a sequel. Which meant I had to get the second entry and for that matter relay the first one and remind myself what was going on even before that. And then, as it does, time slipped away. Which explains why fully a year later, I have only just now played Modern Warfare 2.

On the bright side, it has every last one of the same benefits of its predecessor. Intricate and exciting storytelling, rapid yet challenging gameplay[1], characters to care about who face ethical dilemmas and real consequences, plus the added benefit of characters you have already previously cared about. My only complaint, minor though it be, is that a couple of the scenes really felt like replays of the previous game; and this is easily balanced by the plot following directly from the plot of the previous game, with amplified stakes and a dark ending that leaves me entirely excited for Modern Warfare 3, whenever I get around to playing it.

[1] I finished over the course of a single weekend!

Halo 4

Remember that time when I played Halo 3 and called it a science fiction trilogy? So it turns out that a new studio got their hands on the property and made a new game, so, trilogy no more I suppose. To get the obvious parts out of the way, gameplay is identical to the previous games, so if you liked those, you should ought to like this too. I reckon that the same is true for multi-player, but I haven’t hit it up yet, so I cannot say for certain. But the important questions are: new studio? new plot entry in an already complete story? seriously, someone thought this was a good idea?

Except, in contravention of all known wisdom on the topic, this may be the best Halo of all of them. It’s like, yeah, the new story absolutely relies on everything that has gone before and would never work as a standalone tale, and what has gone before is a pretty cool story that had lots of highs and lows and dramatic tension and tragedies and triumphs, and I stand by all the good I’ve ever said about it. But Halo 4 relates two very personal, small-scale struggles, and it wrestles on multiple fronts with a question as old as the very genre of science fiction itself, what does it mean to be human?

There’s also an entirely serviceable sci-fi plot to hold up these philosophical delvings, about which I’m glad, because you have to have a working plot, and a working plot about the historical forebears of all the cool tech floating around in the galaxy is always of interest. But mostly this game was about the emotional resonance for me, and I have not had this much investment in a specific videogame outcome but a handful of times previously. (Aeris in Final Fantasy VII, the shocking climax of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and my fierce protectiveness of Tali in the Mass Effect games are all I can think of.) Honestly, there’s a specific line of dialogue that haunts me days, and I don’t think any of the others have managed that. (Aspects of the Portal games haunt me too, but not in the same way.)

Dead Space

71OSRxkysVL._SL1199_So, Dead Space. This is a game I should have completed and reviewed years ago. I mean, literally. Years. I started playing it in 2009, splitting time with my friend Billy. And after a couple-few weekends, we ran out of time and stopped, and I kept not playing it, thinking we’d pick it back up. But that never happened and I suppose never will, now.

I started over, anyway, and had a pretty good time at it. See, you’re this guy who is part of a team landing on a mining ship that sent a distress call and then went dark. It turns out that they had a really good reason in the forms of a weird alien artifact, a recent religion, and a bunch of undead things combined into the twilight of humanity. Unless, of course, you the player can find a way to survive the ship, prevent the coming apocalypse, and save your girlfriend.

At a high level, this game reminded me a lot of Ridley Scott’s Aliens. Too much religion, too much focus on dismemberment as the best way to kill things instead of just shooting them a lot. But the aloneness, the helplessness in the face of superior forces with no good way to leave except by killing everything in your path, and the essential alienness of the foe? It is a good recipe, and probably made the game better than it deserved to be by proxy. But hey, as long as I have fun, whatever works is cool by me.

Mass Effect 2

Remember when Shepard, um… yeah, okay, neither do I. I know she did something to learn about the history of the Protheans and the present of the Reapers, and repelled an initial foray into “the destruction of life as we know it”, but that’s about all I remember. Because I played Mass Effect way too long ago. To give you an idea of how long ago, I didn’t finish playing Mass Effect 2[1] until after the majority of people I know who like video games had finished Mass Effect 3.

But I did. And it turns out that knowing why the Citadel was attacked and what that means to the next few years of “life as we know it” isn’t so relevant when compared to politics, especially if new players in the galaxy (called by people who are watching history The Collectors because of their habit of gathering up entire populations and leaving through a mass effect relay nobody else has ever returned from in recorded history) kill you before people get a chance to decide if they consider you a hero for sure or not. Although martyrdom is nice for the hero image, don’t get me wrong.

But it’s cool, because Shepard is back a couple of years later (you can’t keep a good hero down apparently, especially when she has the financial backing of her biggest political enemy behind her) to figure out what happened to her and what is about to happen to everyone else, with new allies at her side (and a selection of the best old allies, including Tali, without whom the galaxy basically seems not worth inhabiting). If you liked the first game, you’ll like this one. If you didn’t like the first game, it is either a) because you are a bad person or b) because you hated the inventory system. That has been fixed, and all that is left to worry about is the exploration of uninhabited planets, which is not bad per se as long as you don’t give yourself the mistaken impression that you should ever explore them in advance beyond your needs. Because there are way more planets rich in resources than you will ever need to probe.

And if there are unexplored planets that have plot relevance but are not announced except by looking for them? That is a fault of the designer, not the reviewer.

[1] Technically, I still haven’t finished, as there are monetary DLC that seem worthwhile. But it feels close enough for review work.

Duke Nukem Forever

I have not and almost certainly will not sample the multiplayer, but without further delay, here are the things that are good about the Duke Nukem game that only came out 12 years later, and in so doing has done more than anything to support the idea that we will in fact mostly all be dead in 11 months:

1) The graphics are really pretty okay. Sure, some of them add to the discomfort of c) below, but by and large, they are entirely modern. And since they had special bonuses of footage from previous versions when they thought they’d be releasing by 2000 at the latest, I can assure you that’s a relief.
2) There were occasional in-jokes at other shooters, not quite to the level of parody most of the time, but I still appreciated them. The moreso, I expect, because of how little I appreciated any of the other humor.
3) The gameplay is pretty much what you’d expect it to be, which, cool, that’s all I was looking for anyway. The days of FPS innovations are mostly over.

Here is what was wrong with Duke Nukem Forever:

a) Load times between levels are 60-90 seconds. Load times between levels at all is pretty egregious in this enlightened age of seamless travel, but that much delay? Horrible and a half. Plus also, it takes just as long to load to the spawn point after you die, which is twice as bad. I know that they know time passed since 1999, because I’ve seen the graphics updates. So, man, what the fuck?
b) You can only carry two weapons at a time. I guess, okay, that everyone does that now, or at least limits you in some way, but this game hearkens back to the “choose your weapon from 0-9” school of thought, and if they’re going to stay so “traditional” in other ways, why screw me here?
c) The misogyny. I thought I knew. I thought, okay, there will be some uncomfortable interactions with strippers that would get a real person kicked out of an actual strip club, and there will be more girls in alien cocoons asking to get killed and you kind of have to because if not aliens burst out of them and they die anyway, but now there are aliens to fight, and I didn’t love that in Duke Nukem 3D, but still, it was a callback to Aliens, and it was uncomfortable there, so, okay. The reality, though… so, there are still cocoon girls, but they aren’t world-weary and in pain, begging to be spared what is to come. They’re bemoaning how much jäger they had last night and how they feel funny as a result. Plus also, I think he kind of ruined the idea of getting a blowjob while playing video games for me. It never seemed so one-sidedly ooky in my head. Perhaps it’s because in my head there aren’t twins, and even if there are, I’d have the capacity to call them something other than “Babes”, especially when addressing them.

Stopping alien invasions at the Hoover Dam is fun, it is. But, I reckon probably not worth it, y’all.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

acrom_360_mI wonder if there’s a new season of The Borgias starting on Sunday or so, or whether it instead got cancelled. I wonder this primarily because of my current familiarity with the characters and some of their life events, courtesy of my completing Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood over the weekend. Because, see, after the happy ending in Assassin’s Creed II, the first thing that happens is the Borgias destroy Ezio’s home in revenge for that golden apple fiasco under the Vatican. It’s a whole big thing that won’t make enough sense to be spoiler if you haven’t played the first game and, if you have, basically it’s an excuse to get him injured and friendless so that he starts off the game not a god walking among men. Whether this is a good decision is left to the individual player, but I suppose it is at least an understandable one since someone could plausibly pick up this game first.

After that, it’s pretty much the same game, which is an entirely good thing. You climb and run and sneak and murder your way through early 16th C. Rome in an attempt to stop the Borgia and their Templar allies from controlling the fate of the world, with all kinds of side missions and secret explorations and memories of Ezio’s buried past along the way, not to mention the near-future modern day shenanigans in which it’s apparent that someone is helping Desmond Miles from afar, because he may not be able to trust all of the people helping him explore Ezio’s memories. To put it simply, this the best serious sandbox series ever, and the prettiest sandbox series ever regardless of plot seriousness. (The best non-serious sandbox series is Saint’s Row.) If you like to look at the beauties of the past, and you like to climb around on everything, you will love this game. If you like conspiracy theories and dark futures, you will also love this game. If you like both, this is your candy store right here. And there’s already another sequel out!

A word or two about the multiplayer: extremely fun among friends who have played the same approximate amount of time as each other, suffers from the modern theory that playing online a lot isn’t enough of an unbalancing reward, so we will also give you levels and new toys with which to crush newcomers who for some reason can’t play online 12 hours a day for the first month of release. I’m not sure how to solve this problem, and realistically there is no way beyond me accepting that multiplayer online has passed me by for the most part. (But yay for friends.)

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

I’ve played a lot of games this summer, you guys! And I’m seemingly not done yet, so, pretty cool. Anyway, this is a sequel to a game from back before the console revolution, F.E.A.R. The second entry, Project Origin covers the immediate aftermath of original game, from a new perspective and with some small degree of overlap. Basically, where the first game explored the mystery of how the creepy little girl was involved with Paxton Fettel and his army of psychically-controlled Replicant soldiers, the second game goes deeper into both the future and the past of the corporation that caused all of this to be as well as into the story of Alma herself, creepier than ever but no longer quite so little.

Of course, not much of the game by percentage follows that story, and what is revealed is on the whole unsatisfying by itself: this game has “middle of a trilogy” written all over it. And honestly I don’t think the enemy AI was as challenging as last time, though whether that says more about the game or me is impossible to determine. Luckily, it was still eminently playable and full of moody scares, which is really the number one reason I was here in the first place. At least as scary as I remember the first one being? So between that and the speed with which I breezed through it, I regret nothing and in fact still want to play the third (and final?) game in the series.

I should also admit that even though the whole game felt like a trap, the unavoidability of its execution reminded me quite a bit of a certain underwater allegory I played a few years ago, and I found the end of the game to be extremely satisfying. (The admission is due to my theory that most people won’t have cared for the ending, you see.)